A vintage Original Ray’s Pizza sign on the #UWS: I hope they never decide to “upgrade” it. #pizza #pizzeria #oldsigns #signgeeks #signs #nyc #retro #oldnyc #vintage #restaurants #typography #fontgeek #relic #type

A vintage Original Ray’s Pizza sign on the #UWS: I hope they never decide to “upgrade” it. #pizza #pizzeria #oldsigns #signgeeks #signs #nyc #retro #oldnyc #vintage #restaurants #typography #fontgeek #relic #type

Hope the day comes when the neon of the long-closed Long Island Restaurant in Cobble Hill shines again. #neon #cobblehill #brooklyn #restaurants #oldsigns #signgeeks #cursive #typenerd #bar #noir #nyc

Hope the day comes when the neon of the long-closed Long Island Restaurant in Cobble Hill shines again. #neon #cobblehill #brooklyn #restaurants #oldsigns #signgeeks #cursive #typenerd #bar #noir #nyc

I really wanted it to be an #umami #burger night, but I couldn’t stomach the wait. Still, welcome to NYC, umami deliciousness! #restaurants #la #lanyc

I really wanted it to be an #umami #burger night, but I couldn’t stomach the wait. Still, welcome to NYC, umami deliciousness! #restaurants #la #lanyc

Juniors in Brooklyn. As iconic as storefronts get. #brooklyn #restaurants #cheesecake

Juniors in Brooklyn. As iconic as storefronts get. #brooklyn #restaurants #cheesecake

Here’s one thing The Retrologist is lovin’ at McDonald’s: The old-school salt-and-pepper packets. The design still features the classic McDonald’s logo encased in the yellow border. And the copyright date on the packets? 1986, from the era of the memorable “It’s a Good Time for the Great Taste” campaign. I’m lovin’ it! #mcdonalds #hamburgers #burgers #fastfood #restaurants #logos #1986 #1980s #design  (Taken with Instagram)

Here’s one thing The Retrologist is lovin’ at McDonald’s: The old-school salt-and-pepper packets. The design still features the classic McDonald’s logo encased in the yellow border. And the copyright date on the packets? 1986, from the era of the memorable “It’s a Good Time for the Great Taste” campaign. I’m lovin’ it! #mcdonalds #hamburgers #burgers #fastfood #restaurants #logos #1986 #1980s #design (Taken with Instagram)

John’s Grill, a San Francisco institution and “home of the Maltese Falcon.” #sf #neon #restaurants #retro  (Taken with Instagram)

John’s Grill, a San Francisco institution and “home of the Maltese Falcon.” #sf #neon #restaurants #retro (Taken with Instagram)

New Yorkers think of Tad’s Steaks as an old-school Gotham holdout, which it is.  But Tad’s used to be in several cities. Here’s the Tad’s in San Francisco, complete with amazing signage. The sign lists the other cities where you could find this chain. #retro #roadtrips #sf #restaurants #neon  (Taken with Instagram)

New Yorkers think of Tad’s Steaks as an old-school Gotham holdout, which it is. But Tad’s used to be in several cities. Here’s the Tad’s in San Francisco, complete with amazing signage. The sign lists the other cities where you could find this chain. #retro #roadtrips #sf #restaurants #neon (Taken with Instagram)

The Cup & Saucer on the Lower East Side: Keeping it old school

The Cup & Saucer is at 89 Canal St. at Eldridge Street. (Photo: Jefferson Siegel)

Photographer Jefferson Siegel sends along a photo of one of my favorite New York storefronts, the Cup & Saucer Luncheonette on Canal Street on the Lower East Side.

This storefront gets everything right: The mix of fonts and signage, the Coca-Cola logos, and that name … so evocative of a time when luncheonettes were a dime a dozen in New York.

Now, the Cup & Saucer, and places like it, are a treasure.

— Rolando Pujol

The neon ‘Miracles on 34th Street’

Where Murray Hill meets Kips Bay, there is a corner where mid-century New York meets the present.

For starters, the Clover Delicatessen has been holding the fort on the southwestern corner of East 34th Street and Second Avenue since the late 1940s, and its neon sign is one of the finest you’ll see on any street corner. To be sure, it’s the most glorious neon sign left on all of 34th Street, river to river. [Well, with the possible exception of Macy’s.]

But walk next door, and your trip through storefront time continues. This liquor shop has an amazing neon sign in the window.

Notice the “LE” in the telephone number — short for "Lexington exchange" — happily preserved in neon.

That means this sign must date, at the very latest, to the early and middle 1970s, by which time the use of exchange names was being phased out. Today, the store would write “532-0980,” and probably not in neon!

Interestingly, a few people to this day hang on tenaciously to their exchange name. It certainly adds poetry to the common phone number.

You can join the club by figuring out what your exchange name might have been by Googling the words “telephone exchange names” and clicking on the first result.

And then start giving out your cell number in this archaic format: KLondike5-5555.

People might think you’ve had one too many, but you’ll know better.

Text and photos: Rolando Pujol 

A version of this post originally appeared in amNewYork’s Urbanite blog. 


In 1910, in 1972, and in 2012, the same has been true: ‘Lucky City Dwellers Know Their Knishes’

If for some reason you’ve never enjoyed a knish, the place to hit up for these dough dumplings filled with potato or other yummy stuffings is Yonah Shimmel Knish Bakery on the Lower East Side.

They’ve been in business for a mind-blowing 102 years, and are a true treasure of New York, situated along that sacred stretch of East Houston Street that is also home to Russ and Daughters Appetizers and Katz’s Delicatessen.

What spurred this post, other than my love for this place, was a copy of a New York Daily News article from Feb. 7, 1972 that’s still proudly displayed in the window. [The News still went by its classic slogan “New York’s Picture Paper” — it’s been modified today to Hometown Paper. But that stylized camera in the logo survives to this day, giving away its pictorial origins. And in the winter of 1972, The News went for a dime.]

When this article was published, Yonah’s was already 62 years old, an already impressive run. The words reporter Donald Singleton chose to describe Yonah could well have been written today. Here’s a taste:

"It is a little hole in the wall on E. Houston Street, just off the Bowery on the lower East Side, and time has treated it lovingly.

On a cold Sunday morning the windows of the old store are so steamed up you can’t see whether it is open or closed. But as you get close you begin to smell something warm and good in the air, and that aroma is the best evidence that Yonah Shimmel’s Knishery, one of those neighborhood’s relics that is uniquely New York, is still in business, as always.” 

40 years after this article was published, and 102 since the knishery opened in the year of Mark Twain’s death, Yonah’s is — to quote Mr. Singleton —  ”still in business, as always.”

May it ever be so.

Text and photos: Rolando Pujol